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Published August 02, 2013, 09:41 AM

Republican push to slash food stamps puts farm bill in jeopardy

WASHINGTON — A plan by House leaders to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program — twice the amount of cuts proposed in a House bill that failed in June — threatens to derail efforts by the House and Senate to work together to complete a farm bill before agriculture programs expire on Sept. 30.

By: Ron Nixon, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A plan by House leaders to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program — twice the amount of cuts proposed in a House bill that failed in June — threatens to derail efforts by the House and Senate to work together to complete a farm bill before agriculture programs expire on Sept. 30.

The bill that would double cuts previously sought by House Republicans was announced Thursday by Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., and chairman of House Agriculture Committee, during a lunch with lobbyists, and first reported by Reuters.

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House majority leader, said a vote on the deeper food stamp cuts would take place before meeting with senators to iron out the differences between the House and Senate farm bills.

The Senate passed its version in May. The House approved its bill last month but did not include the food stamps program, after a vote on a comprehensive farm bill failed in June.

The June bill included $20.5 billion in proposed cuts to the food stamp program, plus amendments calling for mandatory drugs tests for recipients and employment requirements. Democrats protested the food stamp cuts, while many Republicans said the cuts did not go deep enough.

Lucas said the new proposal, which was drafted by a Republican work group, would include the drug test and work requirements.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, blasted the deeper cuts and what she called roadblocks to getting a farm bill passed before programs expire in September.

“It makes no sense to continue to see political gamesmanship that is going on that is blocking us from getting a farm bill,” Stabenow said, specifically mentioning Cantor.

“There is not a lot of time left,” she said.

The announcement about deeper cuts to the food stamp program came a day after the Health Impact Project, a Washington research group, found that 5.1 million people would lose their benefits under the previously proposed cuts in the House bill including nearly a half million food stamp recipients who already struggle to get enough food, the group said.

Even without the proposed cuts, food stamp beneficiaries are facing cuts.

A report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which studies federal spending, found that the 47 million people who currently receive food stamps will see their benefits reduced in November because of an expiring provision in the stimulus bill passed in 2009 by a Democratic-controlled Congress.

The stimulus law provided a slight boost in benefits for all food stamp recipients as part of a bill to strengthen the economy and ease hardship on millions of unemployed workers.

According to the center’s report, beginning Nov. 1, a family of three will see a reduction of about $29 a month - $319 for the remaining 11 months of the next fiscal year. The report said the cut would result in an average benefit of less than $1.40 per person, per meal.

“These cuts will be particularly painful for the many families who struggle to have enough to eat at the end of each month even with SNAP assistance,” said Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the center and an author of the report, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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